Meteorological bomb explodes over New England
Storm fits the season's odd pattern
In a winter characterized by a seemingly endless parade of East Coast storms, it can be tough for a particular event to stand out. "Snopocalypse," "Snowmageddon" and "Snoverkill" etched themselves into the mid-Atlantic's memory through the sheer volume of snow, and the repeated occurrence of rare blizzard conditions.
The intense storm of late last week (which is still lashing parts of New England and Nova Scotia) will long be remembered as well, except by people who reside a bit farther north than the nation's capital.
The storm displayed three of the main qualities that have become hallmarks of this wearying winter. First: it strengthened rapidly, in a process that geeky folks like myself call "bombogenesis." Few things get a weather junkie as excited as when a low "bombs out" just offshore. The atmospheric pressure fell to absurdly low levels in locations such as Martha's Vineyard (28.76 in.), Hyannis (28.71 in.) and Boston, Mass. (28.72 in.).
In response to the huge change in atmospheric pressure, the winds roared around the periphery of the surface low, from Maine to Virginia.
Peak gusts included an unofficial report of 94 mph in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and official readings of 78 mph in Portland, Maine, and 67 mph in Beverly, Mass. At one point, observers on the summit of the 6,288-foot Mount Washington in New Hampshire reported sustained winds of 104 mph with gusts up to 123 mph. That's the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane (looks like they're trying to reclaim their all-time world wind record sooner rather than later).
The second characteristic of the February capstone storm, which was dubbed a "snowicane" by AccuWeather, was its bizarre movement. For much of this winter, the upper-air pattern has blocked East Coast storms from moving north into New England and then out to sea, which is a typical path for an, ahem, well-behaved nor'easter.
With this most recent storm, the upper-air pattern permitted the intense storm to get close enough to deliver a major blow to New England as the center of the storm took a track just to the south of Cape Cod, before pushing it west to near New York City.
Yes, you read that right, the storm moved from east to west. In the winter of 2009-10, anything goes, even retrograding.
The third element of the storm that fit into the broad storyline of this winter is that many of the normally snowy places, such as Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, missed out on the heaviest snows while the storm was at its peak intensity (although they did receive snow at the front and back ends of the storm). Instead, all but the highest elevations of northern New England, along with Massachusetts, Rhode Island and much of Connecticut were placed under flash flood watches and warnings, while the storm dumped 20.9 inches of snow on Central Park in New York City. Other snow totals included: 53 inches at Potter Hollow, N.Y., 34 inches in Highland Mills, N.Y., 28.0 inches in West Milford, N.J. and 21 inches in Chapaqua, N.Y.
Take it from me, a native Bostonian: having it rain in Boston while it is snowing in New York is just about the worst thing that can happen to a Bostonian who loves the snow. It's almost as bad as the Yankees beating the Red Sox.
New York City actually set a new all-time monthly snowfall record because of this storm, with 36.9 inches of snow falling in February. The old monthly record was 30.5 inches (set in 1896!). This record is especially noteworthy since New York was not hit as hard as D.C. was by prior storms this month, and since February is the shortest month of the winter.
| March 1, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories: Freedman, News & Notes, Science
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